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100 Most Mispronounced Words
March 20, 2004 3:18 PM   Subscribe

100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English.
posted by hama7 (83 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Heh, I refuse to believe anyone actually says "a blessing in the skies" instead of "a blessing in disguise".

(Although, as Hendrix once said, " 'scuse me while I kiss this guy")

The "spitting image" one is intersting, though.
posted by Jimbob at 3:49 PM on March 20, 2004


The first thing I did was look for nuc-u-lear. When I found it I knew that this list was the real deal.
posted by h00dini at 3:49 PM on March 20, 2004


I detest "pacifics" for "specifics."
posted by ColdChef at 3:54 PM on March 20, 2004


My favourite: pronounciation (Should be pron_u_nciation) Just as "misspelling" is among the most common misspelled words, "pronunciation" is among the most commonly mispronounced words. Fitting, no?
posted by dash_slot- at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2004


By the way, as I was reading this, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were on TV in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" making fun of people who say "nookular" and "foil-age."
posted by ColdChef at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2004


Hey, whaddaya know? I'm a word snob but I've been going around misspelling barbiturate and mispronouncing diphtheria, mauve and parliament.

I would question "spit and image" - I have NEVER seen it used that way.

I'm now a duly chastened word snob.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2004


I absolutely despise "supposably". I am especially disheartened to hear my managers use it. I guess I suffer from that seemingly common affliction of the decent-speller: Thinking that poor spelling and pronunciation should stop one from rising to the management level!
posted by Richat at 4:11 PM on March 20, 2004


I would question "spit and image" - I have NEVER seen it used that way

I hear ya, but Merriam-Webster doesn't lie:

Main Entry: spitting image
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of spit and image
posted by h00dini at 4:15 PM on March 20, 2004


I'm sorry but "snuck" just sounds better than "sneaked," so I'm gonna keep using no matter what this dictionary says.
posted by jonmc at 4:20 PM on March 20, 2004


"Mauve" is an English word now and should definitely not be pronounced "mowv" as they suggest. Unless you want people to laugh at you. That's how you can tell it's an English word now. Nobody thinks, "Oh, that's from French, I should pronounce it as the French pronounce it," because nobody knows or cares how the French pronounce it.

Some of their suggestions are good medicine for lazy speakers, but many (like "mauve" and "snuck") are just stupid. If everyone aside from a few snobs says "snuck," as is the case, then on what basis do you declare it "not a word"?
posted by kindall at 4:22 PM on March 20, 2004


i shouldn't of read this. it's enough to give a person a low self of steam.
posted by quonsar at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2004


That said, I'm a snob about "interesting," which is not even on their list. "In-ter-est-ing." Four syllables, dammit!
posted by kindall at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2004


I've noticed a lot of people say (and write) "suffice to say" instead of "suffice it to say".
posted by Devils Slide at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2004


Playing a crown (coronet) will make you about as popular as wearing a trumpet (cornet) on your head—reason enough to keep these two words straight.

yeah, except a cornet is not a trumpet. duh.
posted by quonsar at 4:31 PM on March 20, 2004


Misuse of tact/tack is my personal last straw. I will beserker you with my red pen!
posted by roboto at 4:33 PM on March 20, 2004


1. Duck tape is the historically accurate pronunciation, contrary to what I always thought.

2. You gotta be pretty priggish to say "sherbert" instead of "sherbet," in my opinion.

Otherwise, this is a pretty good list which hits quite a few of the pronunciations that annoy me - like when my wife uses the first pronunciation on the list: accrosed.
posted by kozad at 4:35 PM on March 20, 2004


Ooops. Vice versa on the sherbert/sherbet thing.
posted by kozad at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2004


Sure, Bert.
posted by wendell at 4:56 PM on March 20, 2004


Ugh: acrossed. I lived in Seattle for 7 years, and I never ceased to be annoyed by this. Not exactly sure if this is a regional thing, but I never heard it anywhere else. Same deal with supposably. Good list.
posted by psmealey at 4:57 PM on March 20, 2004


Before the accusations of snobbery begin, let's distinguish three degrees of error in pronunciation mistakes.

First, there are the errors that can result in real ambiguity. An example is the use of "flounder" for "founder." Yes, the first is a fish, but this particular guide unhelpfully fails to note that it is also a verb; to flounder means to flail about in a muddle. To founder, on the other hand, means to sink, go under -- fail completely. If you say that your project is floundering, when you actually mean it's foundering, then your sentence makes perfect sense -- only it greatly understates the trouble you're in. And God help you if you get silicon implants. (But hey, if you can get it... flout it?) To my mind, these errors should be corrected at eve ry polite opportunity. It's like telling someone, "I think you meant to press the Record button on that videocamera, but you pressed Play." Nothing snobbish about that. (Sorry about the unmemorable analogy...)

Second, there are errors that leave a word o r phrase recognizable, but corrupt the logic of its derivation, obscuring the meaning. "For all intents and purposes" is cliché, but it doesn't need its own entry in the dictionary, because its meaning comes entirely from the normal sense of the words tha t make it up. However, when we say "for all intensive purposes," the word "intensive" no longer means anything as a unit. Also, the substitution of "tact" for "tack" falsely suggests a link to the usual meaning of "tact," and deprives us of the explicit m etaphor to navigation (tacking of a sailboat). I wouldn't correct these mistakes obsessively, but you don't have to be a purist (or a Formalist) to get annoyed when they make it into print. Over time, corruptions are responsible for a lot of the lunacy th at relegated English grammar to the ivory tower in the first place. It's nice to look at a word and know what it means.

Third, there are errors which really amount to pure preference. "Snuck" may not have appeared in print before such-and-such a year, bu t I can think of no reason that it's less expressive or less precise than "sneaked." Similarly, "stomp" is a colorful and useful spinoff of "stamp," and I'd like to give it an award for unburdening a word that had too many meanings already. It isn't necessary to indulge these inventions when they first appear; but I don't see why we should prosecute their obliteration with zeal. Once they have saturated the language, objectors, whether snobbish or not, are just behind the times.f
posted by aws17576 at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2004 [1 favorite]


Because Bullwinkle never would've gotten a laugh if he'd said "Fan mail from a founder?"
posted by wendell at 5:18 PM on March 20, 2004


speaking of clichés... the expression I learned the means to advance a concept by figuring out more of its attendant details, was "to flesh [something] out". In the years I worked at the big software company in Redmond, where most people slaughter the language unmercifully, the expression I heard more often was to "flush [something] out".

This isn't to say that you can't flush actually something out, as you can to a gopher with a garden hose, but I think the expression they were looking for was the one above. This is of little import of course, I was just curious as to what other phrases people can come up with that didn't make this list.
posted by psmealey at 5:30 PM on March 20, 2004


it's for its (possessive)

my peeve
posted by lathrop at 5:49 PM on March 20, 2004


One was missing "for all intensive purposes".

Common Errors in English.
posted by hama7 at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2004


One was missing "for all intensive purposes".

One what was missing that? And which one? Not the main one linked by hama7, which does list that error.
posted by kindall at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2004


Oh, that was hama7 again. Sheesh! *smacks self*
posted by kindall at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2004


Not the main one linked by hama7, which does list that error.

My fault entirely, kindall, for not having made that clear in my vague comment.
posted by hama7 at 6:02 PM on March 20, 2004


The more I read this list the more bullshit I think it is. About "herb": "Initial [h] is always pronounced outside America and should be in all dialects of English." Well, who elected these folks as arbiters of all things linguistic? They frequently represent standard regional forms as wrong. There is a difference between mispronunciations because of ignorance and "mispronunciations" that are actually the standard pronunciation in a particular dialect. Many of these words are the former, but they included enough of the latter to irritate me.

I did find it amusing that they list "yoke" as a mispronunciation of "yolk" -- most references, at least here in the US, say that one shouldn't pronounce the "l". But here in the Pacific Northwest it's pretty common.

Anyway, I will continue to say "a whole 'nother", and to not distinguish "wet" and "whet"*... because that is how we speak in the Northwest. (Among other things that drive prescriptivists nuts, like the phrase "Wanna come with?" when inviting people along.)

Regional differences are part of what makes language interesting. I don't want to see them go away.

*Some people in the Northwest do seem to distinguish "w" and "wh" in their speech but many if not most do not. I can hear the difference but I don't say "wh" unless I am intentionally trying to.
posted by litlnemo at 6:06 PM on March 20, 2004


One that I hear fairly often and that was not on the list was "prostrate" as a mispronunciation for "prostate". One does not have prostrate cancer, although one can be prostrate with prostate cancer.
posted by orange swan at 6:13 PM on March 20, 2004


I remember learning in a linguistics class in college that "edit" was once considered a word of the ignorant by prescriptive grammarians. As dictionary.com explains, "edit" is a back-formation of "editor."

I agree with those who believe this list is a load of baloney (ahem, bologna). Sure, we all have our pet peeves--I don't like "nookular" even though I say "inneresting" and "prolly."

English changes. Get over it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:25 PM on March 20, 2004


'onestly, i think they 'avent got that right, yer 'onner.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:35 PM on March 20, 2004


I hate when people say "Safeway" as "Safeways", as in, "I am going shopping at Safeways."

grrr.
posted by Quartermass at 7:08 PM on March 20, 2004


Loosers.
posted by Wet Spot at 7:21 PM on March 20, 2004


"then" for "than" and vice versa - drives me nucken futs.
posted by ashbury at 7:30 PM on March 20, 2004


I was afraid this list was going to turn up here. Sigh. So many misunderstandings of language, so little time... I thank litlnemo for the perfect tagline: "Well, who elected these folks as arbiters of all things linguistic?" With that out of the way:

Even for those who believe in the concept of "mispronunciation" (by native speakers), this list is useless, because its few worthwhile nuggets (words whose "wrong" pronunciations will actually make many people think less of you: Calvary, escape, et cetera, &c) are easily found elsewhere and are drowned in a sea of natural variants whose subtle difference easily escapes notice (acrosst, barbituate, cannidate), perfectly normal dialectal forms (aks, bob wire, bidness), bullshit forms reminiscent of those "Kids say the darndest things!" pseudo-mistakes some people e-mail lists of (Old-timer's disease, a blessing in the skies, Carpool tunnel syndrome—this is the title of a book, and it's a deliberate pun, for Chrissake!, Heineken remover—which they as good as admit is bullshit, &c &c), and (most annoying of all) perfectly good pronunciations that "Dr. Language" (if he has a doctorate in linguistics, I'm a neurosurgeon!) doesn't happen to like: "close" for clothes, "diptheria," duck tape (not only is it almost impossible to pronounce both t's audibly in "duct tape," but as kozad points out, duck tape is the original form!), herb with silent h- (this is completely insane), long-lived with short i, "mawv" for mauve, often with the -t-, "parlament" (this one leaves me speechless—the word comes from Anglo-French parlament, the -i- is purely graphic, and as far as I know nobody on either side of the Atlantic pronounces it; does Dr. Language also recommend pronouncing the -c- in Connecticut?), persnickety (not only do they admit they're being ridiculous, they make a laughably erroneous comment, "It is a Scottish nonce word to which U.S. speakers have added a spurious [s]"—a nonce word, which they seem to think means 'dialect word' or something, is actually a word invented for a single occasion—remember, kids, you can't spell "nonce" without "once"!)... Well, you get my drift. Oh, and they're wrong about card shark too; see the American Heritage Dictionary definition of shark: "2. A person regarded as ruthless, greedy, or dishonest; A vicious usurer. 3. Slang A person unusually skilled in a particular activity: a card shark."

Please, I beg you: do not go to quacks like this for information about language! If you want to know how a word is pronounced or what it means, go to a dictionary—that's what they're for, and they're compiled by people who spend their lives studying this stuff for real, not passionate amateurs with websites.

On preview, I'll let croutonsupafreak have the last word:
English changes. Get over it.
posted by languagehat at 7:32 PM on March 20, 2004 [1 favorite]


People would speak English well if they (a) cared and (b) read. But they (a) don't and (b) don't. It doesn't look like something anyone can change.
posted by uosuaq at 8:18 PM on March 20, 2004


Some people can't say "dumptruck".
posted by ColdChef at 8:27 PM on March 20, 2004


re: the mauve thing and looking like a jackass --

when i was an undergrad we had a TA who always pronounced double entendre "DOOOObluh awnTAHNdruh" with a very french accent, right in the middle of her otherwise-flat midwestern speech pattern talk. heh heh heh. always a muted ripple of laughter in the room.

good times.
posted by zaack at 8:35 PM on March 20, 2004


ps -- i used 'always' twice in the same sentence. and i don't captialize. both of these things make me king of english.
posted by zaack at 8:37 PM on March 20, 2004


I could care less.
vs
I couldn't care less.
posted by tomplus2 at 8:42 PM on March 20, 2004


People who don't pronounce things the way I pronounce things are clearly stupider then I.
posted by cortex at 8:51 PM on March 20, 2004


There is natural variation of usage and there is growth and extension of language...and then there is misuse based upon simple (or, increasingly, willful) ignorance. We can debate the proper classification of particular cases, but it is as silly to dismiss all complaint as irrelevant and misguided as it is to instantly condemn any usage which varies in even the slightest way from the prescribed.
posted by rushmc at 8:53 PM on March 20, 2004


English changes. Get over it.

Every now and then, I wish I could.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:16 PM on March 20, 2004


People who don't pronounce things the way I pronounce things are clearly stupider then I.

Hah!
posted by The God Complex at 9:25 PM on March 20, 2004


zaack: Was this lady by any chance from Detroit--sorry, Detrwah?
posted by arto at 9:32 PM on March 20, 2004


TGC: for once, thank god, it was intentional.
posted by cortex at 9:43 PM on March 20, 2004


persnickety * pernickety * You may think us too pernickety to even mention this one. It is a Scottish nonce word to which U.S. speakers have added a spurious [s].

You know, you and your evuh-so-bdiddish pronunciations can go fuck yourselves.
posted by soyjoy at 10:09 PM on March 20, 2004


I have a tough time taking anyone seriously who pronounces "ask" as "aks".

It's three letters. If you can't pronounce that properly you should consider using another language in your day-to-day dealings.
posted by clevershark at 10:13 PM on March 20, 2004


i grew up in the south and was taught that "spitting image" came from "spirit and image" but the internet tells me that this is merely folklore. stupid myth debunking internet!
posted by mawlymawnster at 10:45 PM on March 20, 2004


I could care less.
vs
I couldn't care less.


"I could care less... ...but I couldn't be bothered to"
posted by jimmy at 11:45 PM on March 20, 2004


Why is "gist" not here? That's the one that gets under my skin. I've heard so many people say "the JUST of what I'm saying it is..." or "the JEST of what I'm saying is..."

At least "just" is understandable, since it sort of fits the context of the overall meaning, but "jest"???
posted by Dirjy at 12:48 AM on March 21, 2004


Are you really not supposed to pronounce the "t" in "often"? I've had that one wrong for years.
posted by gfrobe at 1:26 AM on March 21, 2004


Sadly, the often mispronounced "often" is one of my pet peeves. It's nifty to see that other people are having problems with the same words I have problems with, though. Frickin' "mauve".
posted by kimtoxication at 2:05 AM on March 21, 2004


I hate when people say "Safeway" as "Safeways", as in, "I am going shopping at Safeways."

This is endemic in the Midwest, particularly Michigan. I think it's intended to be possesive, though, not plural. See, it's Safeway's Grocery Store. They own it.
posted by kindall at 3:08 AM on March 21, 2004


"Just desserts"
posted by bright cold day at 4:06 AM on March 21, 2004


languagehat rules the universe again, 'cause he has managed to say everything I was gonna say, but in a more polite manner.

But, dude, what was with all the Southern comments? Is this guy sayin' that because people live down below the Mason-Dixon line, they're never gonna pronounce anything properly? Because I find that a heavy Southern accent makes the English language more interesting than a dry dull "proper" accent.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:22 AM on March 21, 2004


"Mauve" is an English word now and should definitely not be pronounced "mowv" as they suggest. Unless you want people to laugh at you. That's how you can tell it's an English word now. Nobody thinks, "Oh, that's from French, I should pronounce it as the French pronounce it," because nobody knows or cares how the French pronounce it.

Well. Laugh away. Some of us english speakers, oddly enough, managed to get "mowve" out of mauve. Call it that good French Canadian influence, but please don't presume your regional choices are the one true way.

But since when does mau = maw in english anyway? Shouldn't it sound more like mouse, or something?
posted by Hildegarde at 5:54 AM on March 21, 2004


This list omits awry.
posted by y2karl at 6:50 AM on March 21, 2004


I did not know barbiturate had that second r in it. That was interesting to learn. I like aws1757&c's breakdown of the different sort of mistakes. Am not sure I can agree with languagehat that "close" for "clothes" is correct; on the other hand I had not idea pronouncing the t in often could be thought of as incorrect, so if I can have my "often", I'll give y'all "close".

As for duct tape, I know Duck tape is a brand of duct tape, but how could it be considered the original pronounciation? It's tape for ducts. I'm sure the second t dropped out pretty quickly because although it's not hard to do, you have to insert a little hiccup of air between the two t's, and it just sounds petty in the otherwise uninterrupted flow of speech. I had a theatre teacher who used to always pronounce it correctly and it just sounded like people who switch to bad french accents to say "hors doevres" or "deja vu".

eck setera has always bugged me a little, and I'm constantly surprised how many well educated people make this error. I even know a latin tutor who makes this mistake (in everyday conversation, anyway - I've never taken latin with him, but imagine there he would get it right...)
posted by mdn at 7:28 AM on March 21, 2004


It's tape for ducts.

Yes, but it was originally called "Duck Tape" by the US Military because it's waterproof, like a duck. "Duck" came first, "duct" came second.
posted by biscotti at 7:56 AM on March 21, 2004


There seems to be a good deal of confusion on this one:

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English:
"Duct tape is the fabric tape, sticky on one side, used by plumbers and furnace installers to seal pipe joints and repair leaks in ductwork of many types. As with bookcase, duct tape’s repeated medial consonants have coalesced into one in rapid speech, giving us the curious folk etymology duck tape—first spoken and now occurring in print on occasion. See HANDICAP PARKING; ICE CREAM."



My biggest peeve isn't a misspelling or mispronunciation but the inability of so many people to get lay/lie right.

The front page photo at washpost.com right now is captioned: "Spc. Matt Reid lays on a friend's bed at the end of a work day."
Ugh.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:41 AM on March 21, 2004


I have a tough time taking anyone seriously who pronounces "ask" as "aks". It's three letters. If you can't pronounce that properly you should consider using another language in your day-to-day dealings.

So you're saying that the following people were poor users of English? Chaucer: "I axe, why the fyfte man Was nought housbond to the Samaritan?" Coverdale: "He axeth not whether good workes are to be done or not." Latimer: "The other axed the price." In the words of the OED:
Acsian, axian, survived in ax, down to nearly 1600 the regular literary form, and still used everywhere in midl. and south. dialects, though supplanted in standard English by ask, originally the northern form.
(Emphasis added.) Now you explain to me how you reconcile accepting (in fact, insisting on) a dialectal form ("mistake") that supplanted a literary ("correct") one, while making fun of the formerly "correct" form that happens now to be dialectal.

rushmc: Fine, but surely you'll agree that someone who makes as many blunders as Dr. Language is not a good person to turn to for such distinctions.

And speaking of Dr. L, it turns out his name is Robert Beard, and it pains me to report that he somehow managed to get a doctorate in Slavic linguistics without absorbing some of the basic tenets of linguistics. As I said on my blog, If I had a kid interested in language, I sure wouldn't send them to his alma mater (or his website, for that matter). I guess I'll have to try my hand at neurosurgery.

biscotti: Thanks for saving me some trouble. More on "duck tape" (and its later variant "duct tape") here. (CunningLinguist: The Columbia Guide is wroong. Facts are facts.)

ColdChef: That was one funny clip!

Katemonkey: Darlin', you ain't just whistlin' Dixie.
posted by languagehat at 9:28 AM on March 21, 2004


I didn't get past Old-Timer's Disease. If they can't tell the difference between a mispronunciation and a pun, what's the point?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:55 AM on March 21, 2004


I guess I'll have to try my hand at neurosurgery.

I have in my hand a list for your perusal.
posted by y2karl at 10:26 AM on March 21, 2004


"Duck" came first, "duct" came second--and still the argument rages....

Wisconsin Pewter on a Roll
--a story there.
posted by y2karl at 10:34 AM on March 21, 2004


I think the duck/duct argument exemplifies what this thread is all about. Superiority.

When I used to see "Duck Tape" in the aisles of the hardware store, I would feel a twinge of disgust, because I knew it was really "duct" tape, used for sealing ducts. "Duck" tape. Ha ha! Stupid people1

Turns out I was ( I think ) wrong. Anyway, I've still got some peevishness about language quirks, but mostly I just relax. I mean, if you grew up saying aks cuz yr mother and grandfather and cousins and friends all said it that way, who am I to insist on twisting your mouth around to say "ask?" (And I wish I could put the question mark outside the quotation marks, but...rules are rules!)
posted by kozad at 10:55 AM on March 21, 2004


kozad: I don't think it's about superiority. While I felt the same way you did about "duck tape", when I learned that "duck" is actually the original, it modified how I felt about it (both are, of course, correct), but it wasn't that I felt "superior" before. I don't feel superior to people who mispronounce certain words, I simply feel like they don't know how to pronounce those words, those aren't the same thing. You can recognize that someone is incorrect without feeling superior to them. If someone says "white is black", do you feel that they're inferior, or simply mistaken (based on that one statement)? The two things are not the same.
posted by biscotti at 11:04 AM on March 21, 2004


I hate the use of "could care less" instead of "couldn't care less". I think only about 1% of people use it correctly.

Actually, many other things piss me off too, but listing them would make this the longest comment ever on MeFi. :)
posted by madman at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2004


For all who agonize over the "duck/duct" controversy, please to know you're not supposed to use the stuff on ducts anyway.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:14 PM on March 21, 2004


And I wish I could put the question mark outside the quotation marks, but...rules are rules!

I know why that rule exists, but I don't follow it, since I can't stand the implication that the trailing punctuation mark is actually part of the quoted text. This usage has become common among programmers, since punctuation characters often have specific technical meanings.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:14 PM on March 21, 2004


what this thread is all about. Superiority.

If only everyone was half as perfect as their pronunciation.

Aw well, everbody gotta worship sumthin

Pass de 'erb dawg
posted by Twang at 1:25 PM on March 21, 2004


I recall one day a few years ago I was out shopping for surplus goodies. I pointed to a pile of used modems and asked "how much are those mah-dums". The seller, in an irked tone, immediately replied "It's pronounced MOW-dum". I replied, "Well, I learned my bad pronunciation from the engineers who showed me the first mah-dum I ever saw."

Humph said the wannabe, but never-to-be, seller.
posted by Twang at 1:31 PM on March 21, 2004


The position of punctuation (inside or outside the quotation mark) is a regional habit. There is no One True Way.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2004


I wish I could put the question mark outside the quotation marks

And you can! The (American) rule is that periods and commas always go inside quotes, but ? and ! go by sense:
He said "Go away"? (But: He asked "Are you there?")
He said "Go away!" (But: I hate it when he says "nucular"!)

And the pentapisc's final remark should be emblazoned over all these language threads:
There is no One True Way.
posted by languagehat at 4:10 PM on March 21, 2004


I didn't get past Old-Timer's Disease. If they can't tell the difference between a mispronunciation and a pun, what's the point?

Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of use of Old-Timer's Disease as a pun by people who knew what they were punning has caused its widespread use by people who think that the disease is really called that. (Or by those who don't know that Alzheimers is a specifically defined disease and not just a catch-all term for any and all memory loss experienced by the aged.) There have been a surprising number of people in my acquaintance who have needed a primer in the reality of Alzheimers.

I don't have any personal pronunciation bugabears, nothing on the list surprised me though I share many of the concerns already noted about such entries as clothes, mauve, often and per(s)nickety. The foible that I find myself most annoyed by isn't a mispronunciation but a misspelling. The next time I see the obviously wrong (and highly stupid) "woah" being represented as the word which one would say to a make a horse stop, I might just flip out.
posted by Dreama at 8:42 PM on March 21, 2004


Apostrophes. People need to learn how to use apostrophes. I'm getting tired of their misuse.

"Me" vs. "I'. Know when to use them. "I" is not always better than "me."

That is all.

(Actually, it's not. The list of grammatical/usage/etc. errors that annoy me is long indeed. But I'm tired right now.)
posted by Vidiot at 11:01 PM on March 21, 2004


I hate the use of "could care less" instead of "couldn't care less". I think only about 1% of people use it correctly.

Odd. I always assumed that the former was meant sarcastically as opposed to the latter usage which is meant literally.
posted by juv3nal at 11:17 PM on March 21, 2004


Me vs. I [shudder]. I'm not sure why so many people make that mistake because it's so fundamental to the rules of grammar. Is it really because people haven't learned what a prepositional phrase is, or is it due to laziness?

And yes, language evolves and changes, that is certainly true. But to me, there's nothing works better in terms of getting one's point acrross than an eloquently turned phrase. Reliance upon poor grammar or using too many buzzwords makes a person sound like a boob. That's it. Since when did it become elitist to speak clearly and articulately?

Btw, if you say that something doesn't mean fuck-all to you, that's a double negative, right?
posted by psmealey at 7:02 AM on March 22, 2004


But to me, there's nothing works better in terms of getting one's point acrross than an eloquently turned phrase.

Very true. What does it have to do with artificial "grammar mistakes"? Purists are always talking about "getting one's point across" and "eloquence," but every one of them would rather see "beg the question" used correctly in a boring sentence than an eloquent sentence that anyone could understand that happened to contain one of their personal bugbears. (Cf. the uproar over "Winston Tastes Good, Like a Cigarette Should," one of the all-time great slogans, no matter how you feel about demon nicotine.) The funny thing is that if you go through any great writer you can find any number of "rules" broken, but that's OK because... well, I don't know why it's OK.
posted by languagehat at 8:26 AM on March 22, 2004


I was really feeling smug about my West Coast upbringing (although Card shark/sharp gave me pause) when I got to the "P"s and BAM!

perogative prerogative: Is it really prerogative? I don't think I have ever heard anyone say prerogative.

preemptory peremptory : Now I feel stupid.

persnickety pernickety: Enough people have commented on this already.

My SO's parents are from a background of very poor white Southern farmers, so you can imagine their language problems. Libary is the least of it. The other day his mom told us one of the relatives was in the hospital for "vowel problems." We had a time convincing her the word was "bowel." She had heard it as "vowel" all her life.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:54 AM on March 22, 2004


The funny thing is that if you go through any great writer you can find any number of "rules" broken, but that's OK because... well, I don't know why it's OK.

Novice musicians learn to play on the beat. Whenever they slip, it's a mistake, and it sounds bad. Skilled musicians, who know perfectly well how to play on the beat, may introduce a little swing to make the rhythm more interesting. It's the same with most skills: you learn the rules first. Only by mastering the basics do you gain the experience that tells you when it's appropriate to break the rules.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:42 AM on March 22, 2004


Yes, many howlers here. One more that irks me:

in parenthesis in parentheses No one can enclose an expression in one parenthesis; at least two parentheses are required.

Now, I say "in parentheses" & I agree that's plenty logical, but anyone whose English echoes the Latin expression in parenthesi is fine in my book. (Parenthesis being a noun referring to the act of "parenthesizing" in addition to a term for a graphical symbol.)

& I can't wear "cloze"?! Jeesh.
posted by Zurishaddai at 3:54 PM on March 22, 2004


Dreama, I'm too lazy to look this up, but didn't Snowy, Tintin's dog, always say "WOAH" when he got excited? Like, he was barking or something but also in English it looked as though he were saying WHOA because it was usually something like when they're in a runaway sled careening downhill.

Maybe that's what's messing people up. That and drugs, of course.
posted by soyjoy at 9:41 PM on March 22, 2004


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